Hippoi Athanatoi

Jet-Lagged Lesson

My body is still convinced its in the US as far as sleeping and eating goes, so I can’t say I was all that awake today when it was time for my riding lesson. I had to crawl out of bed and sternly remind myself that I really missed Murphy and that riding would certainly perk me up. Even so, I was feeling pretty tired and gloomy until I got into the stall with Murphy and started getting him ready. He had some hay left, and of course he had to glare at me once with his ears pinned back, to make sure I wasn’t going to try to steal his food, but other than that he seemed pretty pleased to see me.

Last week (when I was still in the US, more precisely in Las Vegas), they had ridden in the paddock and worked on serpentines with lots of transitions. Today’s lesson was a continuation of this (but indoors), using a lot of changes of curve and flexion and a lot of very precise paths. Being tired definitely affected my control over my body and my effectiveness, but I still managed to work fairly well with Murphy as long as I was asking for him to curve his left side. His right side was, as usual, stiff as a board, and for a while he succeeded in tricking me into thinking he was curving it properly when in fact he was avoiding it by some clever repositioning of his hindquarters and his shoulders. Fortunately our instructor was more awake than me and spotted the problem, and with a bit more effort from my side Murphy started to respond better to his right as well.

Of course, by then it was time to add some trotting too, making the exercise rather more complex. Murphy was moving forward fairly well, and he seemed pretty happy to be working judging by his ears and the degree of co-operation, but I was still not as effective as I would have needed to be in my riding and did not really manage to get him properly engaged from his hindquarters and through his back. Still, working on just the paths and the transitions did mean he came out pretty attentive and willing to work with me.

After trotting for a while, we added some cantering. We had a fairly short stretch to do so (a curved path along one of the long sides of the arena), which made me a bit dubious of how well it would go with Murphy, as it takes a while to get him to react at once to canter aids. I was, however, fairly pleasantly surprised. He did attempt to canter right off even on the first go, though he didn’t quite manage as unless he’s really back onto his hindquarters, going into canter is hard for him as he can get a bit too ground-tied with his feet. But while he didn’t quite get it right, I still managed to keep myself still and my aids didn’t get exaggerated.

We kept doing this for a while, at first cantering on a left leading leg and then on a right lead, and as usual Murphy started reacting more briskly and got better at keeping track of his feet and getting them off the ground when needed. Like before it was easier to the left than to the right, but although I kept feeling as if I got the wrong leading leg to the right, my instructor noted (when I asked her about this) that no, it was coming out correctly most of the time. So I guess it wasn’t so bad after all. I just have a hard time seeing and feeling what leading leg Murphy is on, because he’s steady enough that he could do the wrong leading leg even through turns without much effort at all.

After the lesson, my instructor noted that next time we work on cantering, she’ll start asking me to do more stuff, as I’ve now got the bit about keeping my body under control sorted out. Hopefully I will manage to keep it like that even when I get more to do, but it certainly feels pretty good. The old urge to start working the canter with my whole body is definitely greatly diminished.

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